Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dirk Bogarde

After the Herzog-fest, I was planning an Argento-athon. A month ago, I ordered two Argento box sets from Amazon with a projected delivery date of between 13th and 29th November. The 13th came and went; Amazon emailed me to say one of the sets wouldn't arrive till after Christmas, but the other was still on course for a timely delivery.

To date, I've received sweet FA.

So, the planned fortnight of horror/giallo related entries has gone by the board. On top of this, mid last week I came down with the dreaded lurgy (translation, for all non-'Goon Show' aficionados: fell ill), but forced myself into work - we were riding a tight deadline for submitting a claim for government funding and having time off sick just wasn't an option. Dead-beat by the time I got home in the evening, I had no inclination to head back in town to the cinema, even with 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' and 'The Darjeeling Ltd' doing the rounds.

Yesterday, crying off the Christmas shopping after just 30 minutes of battling the crowds in Nottingham, I left my partner to her hairdressing appointment, went home and crawled into bed. She rang me post-salon. "I'm in Zavvi [formerly Virgin, and the only megastore that sounds like a bit of Nadsat] and they've got the Dirk Bogarde box set, fifteen quid cheaper than you saw it for on Amazon. Shall I get it for you?"

The girl knows how to make me happy.

Bogarde has always been one of my favourite British film stars. Contemporary audiences, if they've heard of him at all (at work, over lunch, a couple of years ago: "What are you reading, Neil?" "A biography of Dirk Bogarde." "Who?" "Dirk Bogarde. You know, the actor?" "Huh?"), don't appreciate how famous he was. During his matinee idol years, it's no exaggeration to say that Bogarde was the Brad Pitt or Leonardo di Caprio of his day. The man was a heart-throb. Talk to anyone of my mother's generation. Hell, talk to my mother!

At the height of his fame, and having famously spurned Hollywood after one ill-fated Stateside production (Charles Vidor's overblown Lizst biopic 'Song Without End'), Bogarde shucked off the pretty-boy, pin-up mantle and started taking on challenging, provocative roles, from the homosexual barrister facing blackmail in 'Victim', to a sinister butler in 'The Servant', to a former concentration camp officer renewing a sado-masochistic affair with one of his victims in 'The Night Porter', to arguably his most accomplished role - the tragic von Aschenbach in Visconti's heart-breakingly beautiful 'Death in Venice'.

'Victim' and 'The Servant' are represented in the box set, but there are at least two other films which, even from the earliest days of his half-century-long career, demonstrate Bogarde's capabilities as an actor and his ability to imbue ostensibly unlikeable characters, if not with humanity, then at least with recognisably human attributes: 'The Blue Lamp' and 'Hunted'.

I watched these two back to back earlier today. It's not looking like I'll be going into work tomorrow, so I think 'The Sleeping Tiger' and 'The Spanish Gardener' will be the order of the day.

I'll be posting reviews of each of the films in the box set - one a day, in the order in which they were made - from tomorrow. Some are old favourites, some I've not seen in years. I'm looking forward to re-evaluating them.

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